Wal-Mart Employees Vow to Hold 1,000 Store Protests, Strikes Ahead of Black Friday
The Making Change at Walmart campaign appears to be picking up steam, with employees vowing to take action in several cities and online.
The campaign is being organized by a group called OUR Walmart, or Organization United for Respect at Walmart, which is funded by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Although Wal-Mart does not have any unionized employees in the US, it does work with employee unions in foreign countries. The hourly employees here who have joined the OUR Walmart campaign have already coordinated the company's first organized walk-outs by retail employees in US history. The first strike was held October 4 at a Los Angeles area store. It was followed by strikes in more than 12 cities. The striking employees say they're protesting the company's methods of retaliating against hourly employees who speak out about wage and scheduling issues.
After capturing national media attention with the first round of strikes, OUR Walmart organizers declared their intention to organize walk-outs to disrupt Black Friday sales. Since that time, the company has announced it would open stores on Thanksgiving Day this year, prompting even more negative press and complaints from workers.
According a release just issued by the Making Change at Walmart campaign, the Black Friday strikes have already begun: "Wal-Mart workers and warehouse workers walked off the job Wednesday and Thursday in protest of the company's attempts to silence workers who speak out for better jobs. Warehouse workers from Southern California walked off the job Wednesday morning; Wal-Mart workers from San Leandro, California, walked off the job Wednesday afternoon; and this morning, Wal-Mart workers from Seattle joined them."
In a lunch hour press conference, the campaigners made it clear that their work is only getting started; they vowed to hold strikes and protests in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Milwaukee, and Washington, DC. The statement also indicated that workers will be walking off the job in Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Minnesota.
Wal-Mart has called the OUR Walmart campaign nothing but a publicity stunt, but experts feel the campaign could mark a turning point in the company's history, even if full unionization is still an unlikely prospect. (See also: Why Wal-Mart May Respond to Black Friday Strike Threats, Adjust Wage Structure: Labor Expert.)
To aid in the public relations battle, OUR Walmart has produced the following video featuring Wal-Mart employees who have joined the campaign. As you listen to their stories, consider this staggering statistic: In 2010, labor economist Sylvia Allegretto of the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education found that the wealth of the six Walton family members who are heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune have a net worth equal to the income of the bottom 41.5% of all American families.
Wal-Mart, a major Dow (INDEXDJX:DJI) component, has annual sales of about $444 billion and profits of nearly $16 billion per year. The stock price had been up nearly 24% this year, though the stock dropped yesterday after the company reported third-quarter revenue numbers and fourth-quarter projections that missed analyst expectations. The company also announced that its had expanded its internal investigation into bribery accusations in Mexico to include Brazil, China, and India. The mega-retailer is also facing a lawsuit in Chicago where the company is accused of violating minimum wage laws.
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